Do You Have Time?

Life has a way of crowding out our time with the Lord. I know we all have occasional days when a prolonged Quiet Time certainly isn’t possible, and I believe the Lord doesn’t want to place us under a legalistic regimen. After all, legalism didn’t work  too well for the Pharisees, as you’ll recall.

At the same time, we can’t ignore the Lord and expect to grow spiritually. We need to invest in prayer, Bible Study and corporate worship, letting His Holy Spirit transform us through these practices. Consistency is the key to maintaining good spiritual health.

This week’s hymn reminds us, in the midst of summer activity, to keep Christ as our highest priority. While we will inevitably have days here and there when we honestly can’t engage in a full-blown Quiet Time, the overarching pattern of our lives should be one of devotion to knowing and obeying Him.

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Perspectives In Titus: Teaching Young Men

Titus 2 6 thru 8

Titus 2:6-8 seems like an inappropriate text for a women’s blog. I’d argue that, although the passage indeed specifically focuses on young men, women certainly can learn from the principles it lays down.

I’ll quote the passage in the context of the verses leading up to it, just to keep everything in proper perspective:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. ~~Titus 2:1-8 (ESV)

Paul has been showing Titus how to minister to various groups that make up a local church, explaining how each group best  demonstrates Christian behavior. For the past two weeks we’ve concentrated on the instructions aimed at older and younger women, but now verse 6 of the text moves our attention to young men.

In contrast to Paul’s instruction that Titus delegate the training of young women to more mature ladies, Paul charges Titus to directly work with young men. As we’ll see momentarily, Titus is specifically told to urge these young men to exercise self-control. Presumably, that term would include controlling sexual lusts (see 2 Timothy 2:22).

Paul’s word “likewise” refers back to the previous three groups.  Paul emphasizes self-control as a contrast to the self-indulgence that marked the Cretan lifestyle. This command, however, especially challenges young adults, who aren’t accustomed to restraining themselves. Fleeing  youthful passions, particularly while living in an environment like Crete, would demonstrate God’s power to transform young men.

Just as young men like Titus would be asking for trouble in counseling young women regarding sexual purity, so he would be the most appropriate person to mentor young men in maintaining self-control in respect to their sexual purity.

Verse 7 slightly shifts the focus from young men in general to one particular young man: Titus himself. Why? My personal opinion is because, since he is a young man at the time of this epistle, Titus could serve as a practical example of how young men ought to   conduct themselves.

The context of this verse leads us to  think that Titus was still a young man at the time Paul wrote this letter, and therefore Titus had to model proper behavior for young men to emulate. Consequently, he was to set an example of performing good works.

He would set this example largely through his conduct as a minister of the Gospel. In his ministry of teaching, Titus would need, first of all, to show integrity. Since Paul elaborates on how to show integrity in the next verse, let’s merely say here that his teaching must be free of any corruption.

By “dignity,” Paul means that Titus should teach in a manner that commands respect. Not only must his doctrine be grounded in truth, but he must deliver it in reverence and seriousness to underscore its importance as the very Word of God. Again, Paul expands on this idea in verse 8, but I want to quickly mention that it makes me think of present-day pastors who resort to gimmicks and theatrics to capture the attention of their “audience” rather than treating the pulpit with dignity.

Verse 8 continues Paul’s instruction to Titus by urging him toward sound speech. In his teaching, Titus would need to speak doctrinally sound words that no one could find fault with. By doing   so, he would silence his critics, proving that their arguments were ridiculous.

Sound speech needed to characterize Titus’ public and private conversations.  This point both reiterates and emphasizes the call to integrity in the previous verse. Barnes comments:

Such as cannot be shown to be weak, or unsound; such that no one could find fault with it, or such as an adversary could not take hold of and blame. This direction would imply purity and seriousness of language, solidity of argument, and truth in the doctrines which he maintained.

Barnes is not alone in his observation; The Believers Bible Commentary adds that sound speech “should  be free from side-issues, doctrinal novelties, fads, crudities, and the like.” As I mentioned earlier, many 21st pastors apparently disregard this call to sobriety in the ministry of God’s Word. Yet Titus, and by extension all representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, bear a responsibility to be faithful to God’s Word.

Paul insists on Titus exhibiting sound speech because of the opponents to the Gospel. He probably thought about the Judaizers in particular, who would be eager to discredit both Titus and Paul. He wanted Titus to ensure that no one could charge them with practicing evil (see 1 Peter 2:11-12).

As Christian women, we can learn from Paul’s instructions to Titus. Even though we don’t teach in mixed congregations, we do teach other women. Therefore, like Titus, we must model integrity, dignity and sound speech that silences the opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ. We represent Him, and consequently our deportment should reflect that fact.

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Perspectives In Titus: The Example Older Men Should Set

Titus 2 v 2Last Monday we saw that Paul commanded Titus to teach the Cretans “what accords with sound doctrine.” We noted that this meant teaching them to reflect the Gospel by how they lived their daily lives. Today we will begin studying the practical application of living in accordance with God’s Word. Let’s look at the passage to see Paul’s approach.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. ~~Titus 2:1-10 (ESV)

As you can see, Paul breaks his instructions down to specific groups within the Church. Notice, however, how the instructions overlap, saying much the same thing to each segment of the church while still maintaining distinct roles. Therefore, although we are women reading this blog, we can apply the principles given to each group.

Today we will focus on verse 2 of this passage, which addresses older men. The term “older men” does not refer to those holding the office of elder, but rather to men of a certain age (probably over 60). They serve as examples to the rest of the church, and therefore must set the start of godly behavior.

As  much as I love the ESV, they missed the boat by translating that first characteristic as “sober-minded.” The Greek word actually denotes avoidance of drunkenness, as seen more clearly in Titus 2:3 and Titus 1:7. Remember the cultural context of this epistle; the Cretans were known for their self-indulgence. Paul wanted Christians to stand out in contrast to that cultural norm as a reproach to those who lived in ungodliness.

Similarly, Paul instructed Titus that older men in the church should be dignified.  This word suggests reverence and proper behavior. According to John MacArthur, reverence for the Lord is assumed, so Paul uses the term to implies honorable conduct.

As if to double-down on this theme of behaving differently from the surrounding culture, Paul adds that older men must be self-controlled. Self-controlled  carries the idea of restraining one’s emotions, and goes back to Titus 1:8.  Clearly, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul insists that older men set an example of godly behavior for the rest of us to follow.

Finally, Paul requires older men to demonstrate soundness in faith, love and perseverance. Barnes cross-references “sound in faith” with 1 Timothy 1:10 and Titus 1:13, both of which speak of sound doctrine. Based on this cross-reference, it appears that Paul wants older men to be well established in the Christian faith, which can happen only through understanding Christian doctrine.

Soundness in love would show itself through the qualities described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Christian love seeks the good of others, even at one’s personal expense. This type of love contrasts the self-serving attitudes that marked Cretans. Indeed it contrasts the self-serving attitudes that mark present-day Western culture!

Paul concludes by encouraging soundness in steadfastness. Older men, having the experience of surviving various trials, should see how the Lord produces steadfastness, or patience, through those trials (see James 1:2-4).

As we said earlier, the character qualities described for each group Paul mentions in this section of his letter to Titus somewhat overlap. Although this blog addresses women exclusively, we can learn from the example of older men (or at least from Paul’s instructions to them). Next Monday we’ll discuss ways that both older and younger women should live in accordance with God’s Word.

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Saturday Sampler: April 30 — May 6

Sping LaceI’ve been angry at God. I admit that terrible fact with shame, grateful that He has forgiven my arrogance toward Him. So I wholeheartedly agree with Denny Burk’s blog post, It’s never right to be angry at God. Ever. His Biblical approach to this issue leads to practical counsel on dealing with suffering.

Rachel Miller, who authors Daughter of the Reformation, writes Policing the Blogosphere? We’ve Been Here Before as an intriguing response to the idea that women bloggers need more church oversight. I’m still weighing her assertions, but I found her parallels to the Reformation absolutely fascinating! Invest some time in this essay; you won’t regret it.

In her hard-hitting essay, “Sorry I Never Knew You” – Should we sing about God’s judgments?, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time challenges the prevailing reticence to preach and sing about eschatology. She includes the song, “Sorry I Never Knew You” by The Sego Brothers & Naomi. Even if Southern Gospel Music isn’t ordinarily your preference, please listen to this important song and consider the points Elizabeth makes.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis enumerates Reasons to Avoid Churches Who Will Not Practice Church Discipline. He raises issues I’d never consciously considered, but that make perfect sense.  His article again assures me that I’m in a healthy, Biblical church with leadership that shepherds me well.

Like most Christians, I fight the temptation to take credit for my salvation. Tim Challies provides a wonderful antidote to that temptation. If Only I Had Been Saved By Merit! demonstrates how our corrupt natures would pervert God’s grace if we actually had a hand  in saving ourselves. I think I’m glad the Lord did all the work!

It’s fashionable to speak about social media with a hint of disdain in your voice. But Michelle Lesley, in 9 Ways Social Media Is a Blessing to Believers, reminds us that the Lord uses the Internet to do some pretty amazing things. Of course, I may be a tad biased regarding this topic — I met my husband online!

 

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One Passage, Preached In Opposite Directions

Treasured BibleIn two months, I would leave that church anyway, since marrying John necessitated moving from San Rafael, California to Boston, Massachusetts. Even so, the rambling, 80-minute message by the guest speaker left me literally weeping.

Most of the people at that service found this speaker highly offensive. The guy who had invited him tried, rather unconvincingly, to distance himself, clearly embarrassed by the whole fiasco. His delivery, which included physically humiliating our pastor, offended pretty much everybody. The exhibition felt more like a circus than a worship service, and people began wandering out to the lobby because of their impatience with his incoherence and his theatrics.

Sadly, however, I seemed to be the only one who objected to the actual content of what he taught.

He chose Ephesians 4:11-16 as his text:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)

Sadly, he followed the Scripture-twisting script of extreme Charismatics in order to make this passage say that doctrine must be rejected for the sake of unity. Did he, in his efforts to promote the New Apostolic Reformation, realize that he taught precisely the opposite idea of what Paul meant in this passage?

I wept because, even though my friends were deeply disturbed by his methodology, they accepted his actual message as being perfectly Biblical. They completely missed the fact that his sermon made a diametrically opposite point to the text!

About three years ago, one of the elders from our current church preached on this same text. At first, remembering that horrible evening twelve years earlier, I flinched as John opened my Bible. Would this elder also try to teach that doctrine destroys unity?

But to my relief, the elder taught the passage correctly, presenting unity as a result of proper teaching. Unity, he affirmed, doesn’t require a minimization of doctrine. On the  contrary, God provided First Century apostles and prophets, followed by evangelists, pastors and teachers since then, to teach us how to be the Church.

Uniting over the foundational doctrines of the First Century apostles and prophets as faithful evangelists, pastors and teachers minister God’s Word to us keeps the Church from  fragmenting over doctrinal error. Proper doctrine aligns us under Christ’s leadership because faithful men explain His Word and enable us to access His Word for ourselves. (Faithful women can teach other women, as well as teaching children.)

The elder’s sermon three years ago offered tremendous comfort, assuring me that I could trust my new church to handle God’s Word properly. The leaders understand that right doctrine forms the very basis of Christian unity. Rather than casting doctrine aside, as the guest speaker that night suggested (for 80 long minutes), Christians must rally around true doctrine, carefully mining Scripture and treasuring every nugget and gem.

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Saturday Sampler: April 2 — April 8

Three BeautiesLeslie A., who blogs at Growing 4 Life, writes Learn to Discern: Living in the Light to instruct and encourage those of us who are labeled as negative for our interest in discernment.

In her latest blog post for Biblical Woman, Candi Finch answers the question, Did I Educate Myself Out Of Marriage? She gently takes us back to the Word of God to correct worldly ideas about attracting a man as well as about marriage in general.

Although Denny Burk’s article, Why the Church Needs More Gray Hair, specifically addresses men, we “women of a certain age” can also benefit from his comments.

I love it when other bloggers address my pet peeves. In His Name is Yahweh, Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate addresses the superstitious avoidance of using God’s Name — even in English Bible translations.

What does it mean to teach by allegorizing the scriptures? asks Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. Elizabeth helps us understand appropriate rules of interpreting and applying the Word of God.

KrizSummer artfully contrasts the world’s view of love with the Biblical definition of it in her post, Love is NOT Like That. Besides reminding us of basic points,  she adds thoughts that few people (including Christians) consider.

 

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Perspectives In Titus: The Teachers Of Deception

Titus 1 10&11For the past few Mondays, our study of Paul’s letter to Titus has focused on the appointment of elders in every city of Crete. As we come to verses 10-11 today, we finally learn Paul’s reason  for wanting Titus to ordain these elders, as well as the purposes of the strict qualifications he placed on elders. I’ll quote these verses in their immediate context, and from there we can start talking about the problem of false teachers in Crete.

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. ~~Titus 1:7-11 (ESV)

As you can easily see from the passage, Paul felt an  urgency for Titus to establish solid leaders in Crete because Crete had a variety of people who resisted godly authority, evidently talking foolishness and spreading false doctrine. Elders would, he implies, provide a way to remedy the damage.

In verse 10, Paul begins to explain the problem. Notice how Paul contrasts “empty talkers” with an elder’s responsibility to hold firm to the trustworthy word. The empty talkers may be fluent in Christian terminology, convincing people that they are spiritual,  but their words are mere pretense. Godly leaders, in contrast, teach substance rather than fluff, drawing on the very Word of God. Paul wanted elders who refuted the false teachers by living lives that placed them above reproach as well as by teaching sound doctrine.

The empty talk of the insubordinate teachers naturally included deception. As an example, Paul’s reference to the circumcision party alludes to Jews living in Crete. Like the Judaizers in Galatia and Philippi, these Jewish “Christians” taught that Gentile converts had to undergo circumcision in order to be genuinely saved.

The false teachers in First Century Crete, just like false teachers in the 21st Century,  deceived people by influencing their minds. According to Robertson’s Word Pictures,  the Greek word for deceivers is a rare  compound that denotes deceiving minds. Essentially, Paul tells Titus that these false teachers messed with the minds of Cretan believers.

As we progress to verse 11, we see the strategy for responding to the people who caused the disturbances in the Cretan churches. Paul tells Titus quite clearly that such false teachers must be silenced. The Greek word for silenced literally means muzzled. The elders Titus was to appoint had to muzzle these deceivers by both godly conduct and accurate teaching.

By saying these false teachers upset whole families, Paul means that they subverted households. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown suggest that these households were local congregations. Either way, their deceptions disrupted close bonds and apparently turned people away from the faith.

By “shameful gain,” Paul probably means that they derived financial benefit from injecting false doctrine into their ministry, Barnes states his belief that they devised doctrines that boosted their popularity, thus winning the confidence of those they then collected money from. Not only did they cause upheaval to entire families with their false doctrines, but they taught their deceptions as a way to profit materially.

False teachers permeate the 21st Century church using empty talk and deception to introduce division in even the best congregations. We need, whenever possible, to join churches that have elders and pastors who live godly lives and teach Biblical doctrine. And those of us who already belong to such churches should pray regularly for our pastors and elders to continue guarding us through God’s Word.

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